The Calming of the Storm – Mark 4:35-41
Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving! While giving thanks to God should be a regular practice for us, today is the day set aside to intentionally give thanks to God, for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever.
But what if we are here this morning and we find ourselves less than thankful on a day like today? What do we do if we come to Thanksgiving and we find it hard to give thanks? What if we find it hard to sing the words, “Give thanks with a grateful heart,” or “Now thank we all our God?” What if giving thanks for the hard days is the furthest thing from our minds?
There is a good possibility that you are here this morning and today is not as happy a Thanksgiving as you would like it to be. You might be alone for Thanksgiving, or you might not be having the kind of harvest that you were hoping for, or you might be having issues in your family.
You might be doing exactly what God is saying for you to do, but maybe the storms of life are crashing against you, and you are wondering, “What have I done to deserve this?” Maybe you’ve been faithfully following Jesus, but now you’re at the end of your rope, wondering, “Why is this happening to me?”
Today we are going to look at the disciples of Jesus who were in a similar situation. They do exactly what Jesus tells them to do, but they find themselves in the worst disaster of their lives. And it’s in our text that we will see why these things happen to us and what God wants us to do.
So, if you can grab a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. We are continuing in our sermon series on Mark, looking at Mark 4:35-41.
I’m just going to read the passage for us and then we will dive in. Mark 4, beginning in verse 35: “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has been proclaiming the gospel of God—the good news that Jesus is the promised Messiah of God’s kingdom, who would come to save His people from their sins, and that anyone who repents and believes in Him will be forgiven and enter God’s kingdom.
And Jesus has appointed Twelve men who are going to preach this gospel and who have been given authority to overcome any demonic opposition to its acceptance, so that the spread of the gospel could reach the Gentiles.
And we come to our text, where Jesus has just finished teaching this great crowd of people a series of parables pertaining to the kingdom of God and how the kingdom of God will be this gradual but effective presence in the world.
And after Jesus is finished, He tells His disciples, who were in this boat with Him, “Let us go across to the other side.” And we see in the next chapter, Mark 5, what is on the other side of the sea, and that is, the country of the Gerasenes, which was an area populated mostly by Gentiles.
In other words, Jesus is taking His disciples to where the Gentiles are, so that the gospel of the kingdom of God could be taken to them.
Now, notice that Jesus did not come just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also. In Mark 2:17, Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus came to call all those who know that they are dead in their sin and who thus repent and believe in the gospel.
And in an act of grace, Jesus takes His disciples to the other side of the sea, so that the Gentiles could have an opportunity to come face-to-face with the Saviour of the world.
And so, they set out to the other side of the sea, but look at what happens. In verse 37, it says, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.”
It looks like Jesus has just led His disciples into trouble. And the disciples are just doing what they’re told by Jesus. They went wherever Jesus went, they listened whenever Jesus taught, they watched whatever Jesus did. Even when the Scribes and Pharisees were opposing Jesus, the disciples believed in Jesus and were not ashamed to be called a disciple of Jesus. And yet, here they are in the worst disaster of their lives.
And you can just imagine that the disciples are thinking to themselves, “What have I done to deserve this? All I’ve done is simply obeyed what Jesus was saying for me to do. I’m going to the other side of the sea to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and this is what I get?”
We have the tendency to think that following Jesus means being exempt from the storms of life. We have the tendency to think that following Jesus equals an easy life. And that’s just not what we see. Jesus never promised that we would have no afflictions in this life. He never promised us a smooth journey to heaven.
Instead, what we have been promised is what Jesus says, in Mark 3:28, that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.” Do you know what we’ve been promised from Jesus? That if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.
There is forgiveness at the foot of the cross. That’s what we’ve been promised. And if we think that we somehow deserve more than that or better than that, then we’ve clearly missed what it means to be forgiven of our sins.
The waves are breaking into the boat. The disciples are bailing out water, but they can’t keep up with the amount of water that’s coming into the boat. They’re freaking out that they’re about to die. And where is Jesus? Verse 38 says that “he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.”
Here we get another glimpse into the humanity of Jesus. Jesus is fully God, but He’s also fully man. He had a body like ours—a body that felt hunger and thirst and pain and weariness. And no wonder, right? Jesus had just been teaching all day long. Of course, He’s going to be tired.
I can identify with this. There are some Sunday afternoons when I need to have a nap, because preaching takes so much out of me. And here, Jesus has just finished a day of preaching and He’s asleep while this great storm is crashing around Him.
This actually sounds very similar to Jonah. If you turn to Jonah 1, Jonah is a prophet who is told by God to bring a message of judgment to the great city of Nineveh. But Jonah goes in the opposite direction, thus running away from God. And so, God hurls a great wind upon the sea, which just about breaks apart the ship that Jonah was on.
And in Jonah 1:5, it says that “Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.” And the captain of the ship actually has to come down to wake Jonah up, so that Jonah might pray to his God to deliver them from peril.
Here in Mark, Jesus is asleep, not from rebelling against God, but from doing the will of God is saving rebels. And in verse 38, the disciples “woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”
Do you not care? Have the disciples completely blocked from their memory all that they have seen Jesus do up until this point? Have they completely forgotten the very fact that He has called them specifically to be His disciples?
You can hear the frustration in their words, can’t you? The disciples are on the deck doing the work of bailing the water out of the boat, and Jesus is sleeping. Does He not care? Does He want to see the boat go down and for them to perish? If He was truly who He said He was, would He really allow this?
And what’s eye-opening about this interaction is that we often find ourselves in this exact same place, don’t we? Does He not care that I’m alone? Does He not care that we haven't brought in as much of the harvest as we would like? Does He not care that there are issues in my family? Does He not care that I’m struggling, that I’m in debt, that I don’t have a job, that we can’t seem to have any more children? Does He not care?
In Luke 10, we read about the story of Mary and Martha. You might know the story: Mary is the one sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him teach, while Martha, her sister, is busy serving everyone. Well, Martha finally gets fed up and says to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
And maybe this is where some of you are at this morning. Maybe you’re wrestling with the seemingly unfairness of life, and you’ve seen the power of God at work, you know that He is capable of acting in your situation, and you’re frustrated with God that He hasn’t yet, and you’re crying out to Him, “Do you not care?”
Church, the biggest mistake that we can make is believing that God doesn’t care. He does care. He cares a lot actually. He sent His Son to pay the penalty for your sin. This Jesus was beaten and scourged and crucified on a Roman cross. He went through hell, because He cares for you.
You will often be tempted to believe that God doesn’t care, that He is somehow sleeping through what you are facing, but this is simply not true, because where is Jesus in this story? He’s in the boat with the disciples. Jesus is not on the shore, watching all of this happen. He is with them in the middle of the storm.
Following Jesus doesn’t take away the storms of life, but what it does is it brings us a kind of peace in the middle of what we’re facing, because He is with us in the middle of our storms.
The disciples do what Jesus tells them to do, but they find themselves in the greatest storm of their life, which causes them to wake up Jesus. And in verse 39, it says that Jesus “awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
And this is where we see the nature of the storm that they were facing. You see, this was no ordinary storm. This was a demonic storm that was attempting to oppose Jesus and His disciples from spreading the gospel to the Gentiles.
We know this because it says that Jesus “rebuked” the wind and that He told the sea to “be still.” Both of these phrases are used throughout Mark’s Gospel to refer to demonic activity.
If you turn back to Mark 1, Jesus is teaching in the synagogue and a man with an unclean spirit immediately comes over to Jesus and begins crying out that this is the Holy One of God, and verse 25 says that “Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’”
The same two phrases are used here. And what this means is that this storm is Satan’s attempt to prevent the growth of the kingdom of God. We know, when we look at Mark 5, that Jesus is immediately going to come in contact with a demon-possessed man, who, once freed from his bondage to the demonic forces, is going to proclaim the gospel throughout that region, and many people—many Gentiles—are going to be saved.
Of course, Satan is going to oppose Jesus and His disciples from making it to the other side of the sea. The moment they land, Satan’s kingdom is going to be in jeopardy as the kingdom of God continues to advance.
And all Jesus does is He tells the storm to “be still,” and it does. The storm has no choice but to be still. That’s the power and authority that Jesus has.
The Greek word that Mark uses here means “to be muzzled.” And I love that imagery. It’s like putting a muzzle on an angry dog. Once Jesus tells it to be still, it is completely powerless until Jesus gives it the OK to begin again.
Don’t miss this: Satan can’t do any more than what God allows him to do. He’s an angry dog with a muzzle. Satan is going to attempt to prevent what God wants to do through His people, and that’s going to mean that the storms of life are going to come our way, but we need to be reminded of who is in control.
When we are tempted to think that we deserve better than the circumstances that we are facing, or when we are tempted to think that God is somehow sleeping while we are going through hell on earth, or when we are tempted to believe that God doesn’t care about us, or when we are tempted to not be thankful for what God has done for us, it might be Satan’s attempt to prevent what God is doing through us.
Satan might be throwing this storm at us, whatever it might be, attempting to prevent us from getting to the other side of the sea, where God is going to use us to spread the gospel of the kingdom.
And what’s devastating is that we will sometimes respond like the disciples. We will sometimes fall prey to the temptations of Satan and will respond with a lack of faith in God’s ability to carry us through the storm.
But then, look at Jesus’ response, in verse 40. Jesus says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t give up on them. He doesn’t deal with them according to their sin. He sees their weakness and meets them in their short-coming, and for Jesus, it’s an opportunity to show grace. “Have you still no faith? Well then, let me show you more of who I am, so that your faith might only increase.”
Jesus will eventually send them out on their own, where they will go and preach the gospel to the Gentiles and have authority over demonic forces, and they are going to come back to Jesus, rejoicing, for all they had done and taught.
It’s the good pleasure of God to show us grace in our weakness and to comfort us in our lack of faith and to send us out again. And here’s the good news: If you are here this morning, and you are a follower of Jesus, if you’ve put your trust in Jesus, you don’t go out alone, because you have the Holy Spirit of God in you.
Not only is Jesus in the boat with us in the middle of the storm, but we have the Holy Spirit of God in us to do what we could never do on our own. The only way we are able to resist Satan’s efforts, in preventing us from doing what God wants us to do, is through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And in verse 41, the disciples are confronted with that power. It says that they “were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
The disciples are given a glimpse of the power and authority and majesty that Jesus possesses, and it terrifies them. If they weren’t afraid before, they are now. They are standing before their Creator and the only thing that comes out of their mouths, is, “Who then is this?”
And I love how Colossians 1:15-20 essentially answers this question. It says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” That’s who Jesus is.
Church, whatever you are going through this morning is not outside the realm or power or authority of King Jesus. No situation that you are up against is so great that Jesus can’t handle it.
We don’t plan for when the storms will hit. It’s not like we can look at our calendar and be like, “You know, this week isn’t a good week for me to get that phone call telling me I have cancer. Let’s make it next week. Less busy.” No, it doesn’t work like that. The storms of life don’t work according to our schedules.
Back in the middle of August, I was in a friend of mine’s wedding. And it was a busy time for Helena and me. The wedding was on the Saturday, and I was to preach on the Sunday, and we were getting ready for Vacation Bible School all the next week. And if it wasn’t a difficult enough time for us, Helena tells me, between the wedding and the reception, that we had just lost the baby.
You never plan for when these kinds of things will happen. They’re called the storms of life for a reason, because they hit hard and they hit fast. And it simply goes to show that we are not in control and that we are frail and that anything can happen at any time. One day we could be totally fine and completely healthy, and the next day we could be in a hospital bed. It can happen that fast.
And if we aren’t ready for it, it will spring up on us and we will be left devastated in its wake. In fact, if you are not facing a storm right now, I would just encourage you to anchor yourself to Jesus today, because the storm is going to come, and if you aren’t anchored to Jesus, you are going to be tossed around.
But if you are anchored to Jesus, if your trust is in His power and not your own, you will find a peace in Christ that is able to weather any storm that Satan can hurl at you.
So, I just encourage you to put your trust in Jesus today. If you have never done that, I would be more than willing to walk you through what that looks like. It’s not going to take away the storms of life, but it’s going to make facing them a lot more bearable when you have the One who is greater than the storm with you in the boat.
When you are alone, or when you are working in the field, or when you are in a relational conflict, or when you begin to doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God for one second, remember that it’s not in your strength that you will make it to the other side, but in the strength of this Jesus, this King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this Saviour, who stood in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and announced, “Peace,” and there was peace.
If Jesus can do that, He can deal with whatever it is that you come across in your day-to-day life. What a precious Saviour we have. Let’s pray…